COUNCIL chiefs have refused to sign up to a charter against modern slavery because it would be 'premature' and 'uncomfortable'.

Cllr Sam Corcoran, leader of the Labour group on Cheshire East Council, proposed a notice of motion during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

He urged members to adopt the Co-operative Party's charter to ensure procurement practices 'don't support slavery'.

Cllr Corcoran believes the charter is 'much stronger' than the wording of the 'aspirational' pan-Cheshire modern slavery strategy.

He said: "Modern slavery is one of the great evils of our time and it is happening under our noses.

"It is a big problem and it is not going away.

"It is disappointing that the recommendation today is not to sign up to the charter.

"It could also be reputational damage if the council doesn't sign up to the charter’s commitments and it is later discovered that there is modern slavery in our supply chains.

"I have to say that I am not convinced by the reasons given for refusing to sign up to the charter.

"The charter contains clear commitments to require its contractors to comply fully with the Modern Slavery Act 2015."

The Cabinet that the Government is reviewing the Act, before adding that signing the charter would be 'premature' in light of any 'potential revisions' to the Act.

Cllr Janet Clowes, who is responsible for adult social care, said the authority must be 'pragmatic' in its approach, while highlighting the 'robust steps' being carried out to tackle it.

She added: "The intelligence that is gathered is absolutely essential and valuable in terms of addressing the problem, both in terms of those individual cases but also in making sure we can then refine the strategy and make it fit for purpose over the longer period.

"And what has been identified is that the 2015 Act doesn't actually go far enough.

"So, in that context, I think it is entirely appropriate that this council waits for that revision, so that we can put in place and bring on board with our partners and address that strategy once again to make sure that it is fit for purpose.

"We are committed to ensuring our suppliers adhere to high ethical standards in accordance with this piece of legislation but also with many other pieces of related legislation.

"I feel uncomfortable in actually signing up to something which is simply aspirational.

"I would rather carry on with our partners, with our sub-regional partners, in doing that job in a holistic way and getting better at it."